They’re here to save the day. They have superpowers. They are strong and colorful. And they wear pants over their tights… Yet another episode of Captain America, Superman or Batman? No, Europeans also have the right to be ridiculous in very-tight superheroes’ costumes. Did you know indeed that most European countries have their national Superhero with their national specificities and national super-stories? Some of them are just created by Marvel as a national adaptation of Captain America. This is for instance the case in Great-Britain, Switzerland and Iceland. But other countries developed their own superhero, such as Poland, Italy, Ukraine and the Balkans… For the greatest delight of their European audience! And other countries created their own parodic superhero, such as Spain, France, Luxembourg or Finland. Have a look at them, they are just hilarious….
Straight from the archives, the greatest European parodic hero after Superdupont, comes the Lusitanian wonder, Capitão Falcão! Capitão Falcão tells the parodic story of a fascist Portuguese superhero at the service of the New State. Together with his sidekick, Puto Perdiz, Capitão Falcão fights against all threats to the Nation, responding to only one man, António de Oliveira Salazar (Portugal’s former dictator). Strange events and a democratic threat begin to invade the capital. Will Capitão Falcão save the day?
Born Jo-Con-Él (translated as Damn-with-him) on the planet Chitón (Spanish slang meaning something like Shut up!), Superlopez left his planet in 1973 when he entered a spaceship and presses a button, an accident that sends him to Earth. He was raised by adoptive parents in Barcelona and concealed himself under the identity of office-worker Juan López. His stories are full of gags with him burning his large nose whenever he uses heat vision, of him getting a bump on the head when his girlfriend Luisa hits him, of him hurting his fist when he hits a metal robot. He already features in more than 60 issues !
He’s come to save the world… but France will be enough for today. He is patriotic, chauvinist and empowered by superpowers to defend his country against a secret organization called ‘”Anti-France”. Here comes Superdupont, the French comic strip character born in 1972 by Marcel Gotlib and Jacques Lob to parody both Superman and French national attitudes. He wears a beret, a striped jersey, charentaises, a baguette of bread under the arm, a tricolour belt held by a safety pin, a long blue cape. He also supports economic patriotism, as he smokes Gauloises cigarettes, he drinks red wine, he eats French cheese and refuses to be painted using China ink…
In Marvel stories, Gunnar is a member of the SHE (Super Heroes of Europe). Many years ago the nations of Europe founded the S.H.E. – a coalition of European-based super-humans dedicated to defending the continent from all threats and acting as a peacekeeping force throughout the world. Some of the members of S.H.E. were killed by Void, but the organization survived and the affected nations chose new super-powered individuals to represent them in S.H.E. Gunnar only appeared in two stories and has never been seen again…
Make room for the Irish superhero: Shamrock ! also known as Molly Fitzgerald. The Irish superhero was born in Dunshaughlin and was the daughter of a militant member of the IRA. As Shamrock, she serves as a vessel for displaced poltergeists and souls that have died as innocent victims of war. Shamrock is possessed by the souls of thousands of victims of wars who manifest themselves as poltergeists which affect probability within a 20-foot radius of her, altering situations so that she is given an advantage, in essence having “The Luck of the Irish”. Created by Marvel, Shamrock first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes: Contest of Champions.
Endowed with extraordinary powers by the legendary magician Merlyn and his daughter Roma, Captain Britain is assigned to uphold the laws of Britain. Captain Britain often clashes with S.T.R.I.K.E. and Welsh anti-superhero police officer Dai Thomas, and develops a rogues gallery including the assassin Slaymaster and the crime matriarch Vixen. Under his name Brian, he tries to keep his studies going and court fellow student Courtney Ross while also working as a superhero. He is sometimes viewed as a coward by others because he always vanishes whenever trouble starts. Published by Marvel, Captain Britain first appeared in Captain Britain Weekly, in 1976.
Thor’s father Odin -a major god in Norse mythology- decides his son needed to be taught humility and consequently places Thor into the body and memories of an existing, partially disabled Norwegian medical student, Donald Blake. After discovering Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and striking it against a rock, he transforms into the thunder god. Thor, as a superhero is of course an invention of Marvel Comics. But the character is based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name, who was the Asgardian god of thunder.
The story is about two brothers, Jonas and Tony Mendez who grow up in Gothenburg, Swedens’ second largest city. Tony Mendez is a Skatepro nicknamed Captain Sweden. One day when the two brothers return to a skatepark they discover a gang beating up another guy. Tony, who is the older brother, interferes and gets stabbed by a gangleader. Later he dies from his injuries. Jonas grows up alone with his mother who goes into a deep depression and gets hospitalized. Jonas decides to become a masked protector for the city . He takes the name of Captain Sweden as a secret honour to his late brother. Captain Sweden was created by Jörgen Berthage and is a current comic-book project.
Here comes the most vulgar European superhero! The finnish comics superhero Peräsmies literally means “Butt Man” and is a play off Teräsmies (“Steel man”) which is the Finnish name for Superman. The “official” English name of Peräsmies, according to Kokkila, is “Phartman”, although “Pooperman” might better capture the essence of the original pun… The name says it all! Peräsmies is a middle-aged, severely alcoholic homeless man living in a landfill, whose only superpower is the ability to fart supernaturally hard. He gained this power as a result of consuming a can of radioactive pea soup, pea soup being the stereotypical flatulence-inducing dish in Finland.
Arno Olsen sits a day at home in his room and read Batman comics when it suddenly strikes him that he will be a superhero… He’ll fix this the next day at school during his physics lessons by exposing himself to an “accident” that gives him super powers. He is then given a superhero license by the superhero license office in Copenhagen and begins to fight crime and Count Scroogeness as Dukse Drengen. As a real superhero, Arno has also weaknesses – he can’t tolerate red sausage, green soda and a number of added food products. Dukse Drengen first appeared in a comedic TV show in 1987, before gaining his own comic from Danish company Cool Comics.
Gutsma and Gutspa were once a young married couple who were told by the doctor that they were infertile. They found a baby in a superhero costume, adopted him and called him Gutsman. According to his origin story, Gutsman has no superpowers, but has trained a lot to become a strong man. Gutsman’s nam is inspired by the Dutch word for gouge, but the English meaning of it has been taken in consideration too, as it still would have been “Gougeman”. The character, created by Erik Kriek, parodies Golden Age Superheroes and strips are frequently done in black and white with no dialogue.
Mega Mindy is a Flemish children’s superhero drama airing on the belgian TV channel Ketnet. The series revolves around Mieke, a girl who lives with her grandparents and works as a police officer but also has a secret identity as superhero Mega Mindy. She tries to keep it a secret, but falls in love with Toby who also works at the police. He is in love with Mega Mindy and doesn’t know that Mieke secretly likes him and is actually Mega Mindy. She tries to find a way to balance between work and being a superhero, but it isn’t always easy.
The figure of Superjhemp created by Roger Leiner and Lucien Czuga emerged as a mockery of the new wave of national consciousness, which came up in Luxembourg in the 1980s. Superjhemp is inspired by Superdupont, the French figure of Gotlib and Jacques Lob, which in turn is again a caricature of the American Superman. In each of the 26 episode, Superjhemp has to save the country of Luxemburg from evil characters such as “Filip Filoux” or “Jessica Jaguar“. Superjhemp is in real life “Charel Kuddel“, a typical Luxembourg public servant.
After the Nazis took power during 1933, the resistance took great pains in searching for a solution to end Adolf Hitler’s evil dictatorship. They formulated a plan to bio-engineer super-human assassins, eventually finding their man in one ‘Captain Berlin’. However, Berlin’s attempt on the life of the fuehrer was unsuccessful, subsequently forcing him to go underground and adopt a new identity. Armed with his holy water-pistol, can Germany’s one and only superhero end the tyranny of these insane schemers and save the world? Captain Berlin has been adapted into a movie directed by Jörg Buttgereit in 2009.
Captain Austria is not a parody. This project led by the A.S.H.-Team is about creating a genuine universe, which centers around superpowers. The only difference with American superheroes is that, for a change, the characters do not inhabit the canyons of Manhattan but the squares and streets of Vienna and Salzburg. The storyline is following: “Europe 2016. Since the end of the Cold War, the superheroes and superhero alliances set up by the great powers have retired. The major conflicts are now part of History… All this suddenly changes when a series of brutal attacks with clearly superhuman background takes place in Vienna! The young Captain Austria, who has previously exercised his superheroism rather only as a hobby, is challenged to recruit old and new allies to put an end to this terror … “
Captain Switzerland’s history is unknown. He was introduced by Captain Britain as a fellow hero from a puzzle that featured nine superheroes from around the world dressed in costumes based on flags from different countries. He belongs to a non-team called the World Federation of Superheroes. He appeared in a Marvel comic series entitled “Fun and Games” which was a compilation of crosswords and other types of puzzles and fitness exercises. Captain Switzerland has hence no history yet, but one can hope that he will have his adventures one day or another…
Comandante Italia is an Italian superhero who lives his adventures in a world populated by other superheroes which form the group of Defenders of Europe, composed of 8 members from different European Countries. All members are attached to the main character, Captain Novara, a comic book superhero created by Italian Fabrizio De Fabritiis and published in episodes in mono page, by the publisher Emmetre Service since 2004. From April 2008, the Defenders of Europe can be found in the magazine Capitan Novara Magazine.
Czech Republic – Slovakia
Pérák is maybe the oldest European superhero. Under his nickname “the Springer”, he has been a urban legend originating from the city of Prague during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in the midst of World War II. In the decades following the war, Pérák has also been portrayed as a Czech superhero. “The Springer” was said to leap out from shadowy alleys and startle passers-by. Oral tradition suggests that some of Pérák’s leaps were of an extraordinary magnitude, including the act of jumping over train carriages… An associated rumour concerned a “Razor Blade Man” who was said to slash at victims with razors attached to his fingers.
Polish superhero Biały Orzeł is a square-jawed, muscular Eastern European Captain America or Iron Man with superhuman powers. Created by Maciej and Adam Kmiołek, Biały Orzeł -which means White Eagle- is a retired businessman and CEO called Aleks Poniatowski who mysteriously fell out the window from the 15th floor and went into a coma. Three years later, with the medical expertise of his scientist father, Aleks gains superpowers. Now White Eagle hunts corporations, mafia bosses, monsters from the darkest alleyways of Warsaw and corrupt politicians.
Captain Lithuania is not really a true character, but rather a joke made by Lithuanian artists. “With all the Avengers madness this was set to happen, sooner or later. The movie that took all of our money and is one of the top grossing movies of all time deserves to have its Lithuanian equivalent with Captain Lithuania. Captain Lithuania is based on original artwork and updated with Lithuanian flag colors, Coat of Arms and Columns of Gediminas. Just look at the shield and helmet! Columns of Gediminas -one of the earliest symbols of Lithuania and one of its historical coats of arms- were made to be there”.
Well, Latvia has unfortunately no superhero. So we can only rely on artists and free lance creators. This is actually a good opportunity to present you the fantastic work of the freelance artist and student Siins, who tried in 2011 to design a Latvian superhero. She explained her drawing saying : “wehh it doesn’t really look very superheroish but I have my reasons as to why and what but i’m too tired to explain all of that right now. Her superpowers would be strength of nine men and a voice attack (don’t you dare say anything about skyrim)! yeah i have reasons for those too. all sorta based on latvian mythology and traditions”. Have a look at her tumblr, it’s great.
Gritsko Sraka (Грицька Сраку)
The Ukrainian comic strip artist Oleg Synelnyk came in 2012 with a brilliant idea: Ukraine need a superhero and this should not be imposed by Marvel. So he sat in front of his PC and was looking for inspiration in the history of Ukraine and a famous folk hero. He found on the internet a picture of a guy in Cossack dress, drew a face, processed and added some text. The legendary Ukrainian Cossack Gritsko Sraka was born ! Oleg Synelnyk then announced on his blog a campaign to ask participants to come up with both positive and negative characters drawn for future stories, plus options plots.
Romania – Moldova
Romanian superheroes comes from “Basme” what means “spoken tales” passed down from generations to generations. Few have knowned origins. But some of them have been recorded in writings in old books. Harap Alb is one of those. Based on traditional themes found in Romanian folklore, it was recorded and reworked in 1877. Harap Alb, known as Stefan in real life, is a noble, well-educated aristocrat. He handles the sword and dagger very well and was trained at the castle since his young age. It has now its comics published under the name Harap Alb continua.
“One night in the streets of Budapest. A supernatural monster threatens Hungarian citizens. Who can stop him ? Seeing the authorities would need a bit of support, Hungarian national superhero Hungaria Kapitanya and his best friend Huszar, the young mutant, will have to put an end to this threat.” The Hungarian superhero magazine gave recently life to Hungaria Kapitanya inspired by older forgotten stories of this genre. Behind this project is fantasmania.hu, an online toy store. Let’s wish Captain Hungary a long life and his adventures to be as rich as the ones of his European counterparts!
Martin Krpan is probably the most frequently read folk story for children in Slovenia and maybe the oldest European superhero. It talks about an extraordinarily strong Slovene man who defends the Habsburg Empire against an intruder.By his powers Martin Krpan is a proper superhero. He even has self-crafted weaponry and his version of a bat-mobile! So, after saving an empire, does he use his powers to fight injustice? Saves another empire? Searches for another adventure? No, he withdraws to his ancestral home.
Super Hrvoje was magically transformed into a stone-man by accident. Through some ancient magic, whenever the blood of innocents is spilled on an ancient Croatian rocky ground, Super Hrvoje transforms into a stone man, making him almost invulnerable. He can then shoot stones from his hands at supersonic speed and merge with rocks or dive into a rocky ground like into a river. Super Hrvoje was created with an intention to be a Croatian version of Captain America, during the Croatian war for idenpendence from Yugoslavia. Therefore, in the comic, he is fighting Yugoslavian/Serbian army and paramilitary.
“Faster than common sense. Stronger than mother in law. Smarter than “a” blond. Yes, it is SuperSerb!” This is what could be read on an old poster illustrating SuperSerb. However, the character SuperSerb did not really exist as a comics strip as such, it was rather a joke. His adventures would have been fascinating to read… This is interesting to notice that “superheroes sometimes appear when ethnic groups are beginning to wring each other’s territory” writes a blogger who studied Balkan war comics as a phenomenon.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Before becoming Bosman, the Bosnian superhero was a boy called Mears (Mirsad) and he was the son of a general of the Yugoslav army. But when the war began Mears gained superpowers and became Bosman, the fighter for justice. and of course, as the blogger who analyzed Balkan war comics as a phenomenon, in a devastating war in Yugoslavia, “justice required to kill Serbs”. Bosman may find a new second life under the pencil of comics creator Berin Tuzlić. This time, he may fight peacefully in the team composed of all Balkan superheroes…
This eagle-man fights, of course, for justice and, used to fight in the past, of course, against the Serbs. Shqiponja was born in 1997. His appearance, by the way, is due to the cartoonist Sorosh, who created the character while he was studying drawing in Pristina. Shqiponja seems to have gained now a second life under the pencil of the comic book artist Gani Sanduri who said that his “comic has no longer connection with politics and is not directed against members of other nationalities in Kosovo or elsewhere, and especially not against Serbs”. The theme of the first comic book and its sequel, is the fight against the drug mafia.
Супер Спиро (Super Spiro)
“Protecting the city at night, sleeping like a log all day. But no one knew his true identity. That’s why people call him Super Spiro !” Yes, Bulgarians do have their superhero ! Created by Bulgarian artist Nedelcho Bogdanov, Super Spiro is a parodic superhero fighting against weird villains in the streets of Sofia. You can watch an episode in English here. A propos superheroes and Bulgaria, in 2011, anonymous artists repainted the Soviet soldiers on a war monument in Sofia as comic-book superheroes. Beyond merely irritating the authorities with the farce, the gesture raised the question of the relationship between power, art and history. Have a look at the results, it’s worthwhile!
And if, long before Marvel and its Spiderman, Batman and other Superman, the oldest European superhero were actually greek? Greek mythology may have brought us the first superheroes of all time… And the most famous of all the Greek heroes was without doubt Herakles. He was the son of Zeus, who was the king of the gods, and Alkmene, a mortal woman. In Roman and later times, Herakles was known as Hercules. He had superhuman strength—he was strong enough to carry two building columns! He was known for fighting ferocious animals and monsters.
Selma Tolon was a Turkish doctor working with a Turkish relief group: The Red Crescent. When a terrible earthquake happened, she went to the disaster scene to help. Falling into a hole opened because of the earth-quake, she found the artifacts hidden by the wizard Merlin after the defeat of Sultan Suleiman the Great by a demon called Etrigan ages ago. She carries the Eternity Book of the wizard Merlin, which helps her to cast magical spells, but she has not mastered the use of it yet. She also wields the mystical scimitar of the Sultan Suleiman the Great. These artifacts have given her great strength, stamina, fighting powers and ability to fly.
Civil servant by day and superhero at weekends and at other times on request, Captain Europe first wore his superhero suit in 2006, having been inspired by people dressed as other superheroes at a carnival party. He now fights for the usual superhero causes: truth and justice. Truth can mean busting the many myths about the EU, or teasing and provoking the powerful to keep them honest. Justice can mean standing up for consumers against powerful corporations, or stimulating police cooperation to fight serious and organized crime. Read his interview here or follow captain europe on twitter @captain_europe
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